Love your beaches and bays? Time to get involved.
Updated: May 3, 2019
Hey there happy readers and followers! Thanks for chiming in for this post! I wanted to touch base about something that I am super passionate about as a Sarasota citizen. We've been living here for over a decade now and I've come to know and love darn near everything about this town. The culture, the environment, the history, the architecture and most of all, the quirkiness. All of it. With the exception of the Caribbean or Central America, I wouldn't live anywhere else. One thing that I've become very passionate about having lived here for a time, is our local environment. Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in particular. My family, and many others, rely almost completely on the bay as a source of entertainment, nature and even income. Sarasota Bay has an estimated 11.8 billion dollar price tag associated with it (https://sarasotabay.org/wp-content/uploads/2012-09-SarasotaBay_ValuationP1.pdf). To say that it is locally important is an understatement.
One organization dedicated to protecting and restoring Sarasota Bay is the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP). Of which, I am honored to be a volunteer on the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC). Here's a little background for ya: SBEP began in June 1989 when Sarasota Bay was designated an “estuary of national significance ” by the U.S. Congress as part of the Water Quality Act of 1987. SBEP is one of 28 National Estuary Programs in the United States. The SBEP is a member of the Association of National Estuary Programs. Layman's terms, our area is important and even governing bodies recognize that. What happens in our bays and estuaries impacts The Gulf of Mexico, our beautiful beaches we are so well known for and all surrounding areas. SBEP partners with agencies and citizens to collect information and provide recommendations as to how to best protect and restore our bay.
Sounds awesome right?! Of course this is no easy task. Many of our local waters are considered "impaired", meaning they don't meet water quality standards and for lack of a better term, are not "healthy" like they should be. And yet so few citizens know this. Here's the gist of it, in the past 30 years or so, this area has seen exponential growth and increasing population numbers. More people means more money and more development. More development means more concrete and less vegetation. Less vegetation means less filtration of nutrients and bacteria from the many rains we get and a much larger volume of nutrients and bacteria flowing into our waterways from fertilizers, pet waste, lawn clippings, and other sources. More nutrients and bacteria means less healthy waters (For a quick lesson on why more nutrients and bacteria are not a good thing, click here:https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/issue ). As temperatures and weather change, development continues, and more people flock to the area, more and more nutrients and bacteria enter our water systems. This only exacerbates an already dicey situation.
People underestimate how much impact Sarasota Bay has on the lives of every single resident and visitor. This past year we saw a terrible and long lasting environmental event, of which I'm not going to mention as it's so politically charged and the science is still emerging. But I will say this, it starts in "r" and ends in "## tide", represented a immensely large loss of income for more than half of our citizens and saw huge environmental impacts that will take years to recover from. This is only one event of which I write. A healthy bay means a healthy Sarasota and I think Sarasota residents often forget this. Or maybe they are simply unaware.
SBEP has restoration work cut out for them. The beauty of SBEP lies in their ability to work with citizens as well as governing agencies. They are an organization fueled by science and driven by volunteer involvement. There are constant opportunities for citizens ranging from school age children to retirees to get involved, get their feet wet and take a hands on approach restoring our bays. Not to mention, it's fun! What better way to spend a weekend than outside, enjoying our Florida?!
There is no better time for all of us to start paying attention to what is happening with our local environment. We are in a position to start improving and restoring our waters or we can ignore our role in it and suffer greater losses of environment and economic value. The old adage "don't bite the hand that feeds you" comes to mind
So get involved! I realize that not all of my readers live in the Sarasota area but, trust me, there are environmental issues in your area too. Learn more and take advantage of the many opportunities organizations such as SBEP, have to offer in your area. They are out there, all you have to do is look. Environmental organizations are coming to rely on citizens more and more and the divide between scientists and citizens is getting smaller. Citizen science is all about community involvement and we cannot do it without people like you!
And, if you live in the Sarasota area and want to see citizen science at its finest, make sure you put the 2019 Seagrass Survey Event on your calendar! June 15th, 8 am to 2 pm. Family friendly and amazingly fun. All focused on the beautiful Sarasota Bay seagrass communities.
Feel free to checkout my bio on the Citizen Advisory Committee page to find out a little more about yours truly and some of the other amazing citizens helping to restore our bay.
Happy restoration friends! Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about how you can get involved, feel free to email or message me!